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The truths they don't want you to read....

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The declining island economy

On reading the press release from Alasdair Allan MSP I was very angry; then I laughed at the imbecility of it ; then I just got depressed at the lack of vision and understanding.

The closure of LHC is such a major issue, that Mr Allan announces, that
"Along with my colleague Angus MacNeil MP we will now be seeking an urgent meeting with the Enterprise Minister, Jim Mather MSP, to seek ways forward for the islands economy."
We also need to look at the fact that the motion in the Scottish Parliament in September 2008 was supposed to raise the profile of the issue, but that one of key parties has totally ignored their responsibilities.
S3M-2604 Alasdair Allan: Lighthouse Caledonia—That the Parliament expresses its serious concern at the news that Lighthouse Caledonia, one of the biggest private employers in the Western Isles, is to consider the future of its fish processing and related business within the Isles, potentially with an impact on over 100 jobs, and believes it is now imperative for the Parliament, the Scottish Government and its agencies, the local authority, the workforce and the company itself to work tirelessly together to ensure that this essential business stays in the Western Isles.
I refer, of course, to the Government, who have been conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps someone can do an FoI request to find out if the Government were even asked to be involved, and what questions were asked of Mr Mather, and what responses he gave?
"I am also going to raise a question at First ministers (sic) questions as to what can now be done to boost the island economy. This is a big blow to the economy of the Western Isles."
Wow! That will have them shaking in their shoes. Asking a soft question to get bland answers is not a substitute for action.

With the Harris Tweed industry scrabbling around for £350k to fund a scheme to keep weavers active (another issue in which the Government have been asked to take action by our MP and MSP, and where they have been invisible) the Depression and unemploymentlikely answers are all to clear. And depressing

Having chased away the biggest single private sector investment ever proposed for the islands - I refer of course to large scale windfarms - it is difficult to envisage the civil servants or the Minister now listening to pleas about disinvestment and economic hardship.

Now, I know that there are some people out there who oppose windfarms, but I already gave a simple solution. If the moor is that important, then our MP and MSP should have been arguing that refusal of planning permission for LWP should have been matched by a Government fund to allow us to protect the environment in the islands - moor, birds and humans - which would have given us the pot from which to provide an economic buffer.

But, unable to see beyond the knee-jerk opposition, instead of trying to get the best deal for the islands, the MP and MSP campaigned so that the intrinsic value of the moor was given away, development precluded, and the islanders are left with fewer ways to generate income. And they call that success.

Now HIE and the Comhairle have called for large scale windfarms to be approved on the island without delay, as being the only way to regenerate the economy.

I disagree. Yes, disagree. (Sharp intake of breath all around!)

At the moment, the economy is too fragile to become overly dependent on only one source of employment, and for us to be at the mercy of one oligopoly or developers. What we need is solutions that will develop the economy in a number of areas, across various sectors, professions and trade, so that we have diversification not consolidation.

Large wind farms are PART of the answer, and can aid the diversification, but the lead time is too long, and we need working solutions in the next few months.

If the local economy is to survive this downturn, and come out of it stronger, we need to find way to develop and encourage the local economy (and that means the private sector) to diversify an ultimately it will require massive targeted capital expenditure programmes to retain the skills.

Sadly, all the Comhairle capital expenditure is going on the new schools project.

Equally sadly, I cannot see either our MP or MSP actively engaging the Government and lobbying for their constituents.

I predict - for the umpteenth time - that the economic and community benefit strategy that is due to come from the Government is going to be vague, filled with generalisations and niceties, and deliver nothing for the islands. Except possibly the Eishken windfarm, which would be a major embarassment for our MP and MSP.


Anonymous said...

Same comment as I have put before:

Come and live in Pairc, even Gravir, with your young family and I will take your greedy love of wind turbines to heart.

Anonymous said...

What about putting shares in the moor out on the open market. Carbon trading. Seems to be the buzzword elsewhere.

I am not aganinst windpower but Angus is right. It won't create any solutions in the short term (or long term). We should all watch Channel 5 this Tuesday to see the skilled labour that is required for these technically advanced bits of kit. Fishfarm workers are not going to be able to switch to turbine construction. Face facts. It will be imported labour who would fill that void.

We need to focus on the islands strengths. Start producing lamb, mutton, beef, and other products off the land in quantities that can sustain us. The moor offers huge grazing oppurtunities, genetically unmodified, for herds of livestock. Let us use it. There can be nothing more natural and complimentry to the wildlife that are supposidly so important.

Hebridean Venison, Mutton, Lamb, Goose, Beef. We could become the larder of Scotland.

PS: Any truth in the rumour Tesco have put in a bid for the Woolworths shop to make into a clothes and white goods store? therby getting them out of the planning headache that would be expanding the current shop.

Anonymous said...

Whilst I have every sympathy for those with mortgages, even those who foolishly took out ones way beyond their means, as a result of the last 2 months worth of interest cuts I have lost about £6000 per annum income. This means I have considerable less to spend in the island shops. It also means I will have to look at entering the job market again. Those of us who by dint of hard work who saved never overstretched ourselves financially are paying the price for all the fools who did. What I hear you ask has this to do with me?

Well, and before all your correspondents start shouting about how well off I must be if I have that sort of income from savings, a little background might help. As I have a very low attitude to financial risk so my money is in income bonds. My income at present is circa £11000 a year. The new rates will mean this will drop by about £6000 pa. This is my sole income. I do not work, and I take nothing from the state. I pay my taxes in full including Council tax. I spend most of my money locally when I can. My lifestyle means that I am not competing for jobs with those who need the income from such jobs. But now because of these swingeing interest rate cuts I am not only unable to spend as I used to I am going to have to live off my capital and then scrounge off the state until I can get a job that I don't really want and someone probably really does. So much for being sensible and saving! My re-entering the job market will not help those who have or are losing their jobs locally because of Company shutdowns.

I have some questions/observations about the shock horror headline figure of 300 jobs going from the island. Are these all full time jobs or just lots of part time posts? If they are part time what is the full time equivalent of the jobs lost? How many of these people losing their jobs will be signing on locally and how many will just leave the island, as they were no more than itinerant workers who just move on when the work disappears? In other words get behind the shock horror headlines just what is the impact on the local employment situation probably not a lot!

And finally, why do businesses always moan about interest rates being high when like all other overheads all they do is pass these costs on to the consumer? Surely it's no skin off their nose what the interest rate are as even their competitors will be paying similar rates? Maybe there is another agenda here, business owners have morgages and it's just away for them to get their personal expenditure down by saying high interest rates affect there businesses.

Anonymous said...

Well said Angus! Visit and google Belarus for example to see how some are lobbying to get their CO2 rich environments both recognized and rewarded financially - both peat bogs and rain forests.

We should be fighting tooth and nail to get our moor recognised as a carbon store, and surely we are in a fabulous position given that large areas of the island are already designed for conservation purposes.

As I see it we are unfortunately severely disadvantaged by our politicians including 'famous' Angus Campbell, who manifestly have a very restricted view of our green potential - heavy industrial development, and even more apparently seem to bitterly resent our current environment and its international importance.

This prejudice is just foolhardy and negligent, and if you ask me, is a luxury we cannot afford. We have maintained the moors for generations, and we can keep on doing so for global benefit.